Thursday, September 21, 2023

How Prince William Hopes Milan’s Food Waste Program Can Change the World


The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs scooped one of the five top awards at Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot environmental awards last year. Now it has revealed how it plans to spend the money.

An Italian city-wide initiative aimed at eliminating food waste as well as feeding those in need made global headlines last October when it scooped a major environmental prize at an event launched by Prince William.

The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs won the ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ category at the royal’s inaugural Earthshot Prize in London last year. The prize, described as the ‘most prestigious global environment prize in history’ on its website, aims to highlight the organizations working on solutions to stave-off the impending climate crisis over the next few years.

According to a press release from Kensington Palace, the aim of the Earthshot Prize, which was launched by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, is to ‘turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism by celebrating the people and places driving change’ who have created ‘ingenious innovations with the potential to repair our planet’.

The Earthshot Prize

The awards feature five categories. For the rest of this decade, five winners will be chosen every year and given support to scale up their environmental solutions. The categories are; Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; and Fix our Climate. The fifth, Build a Waste-Free World, is awarded to those judged to be making the outstanding efforts to meet the challenge of eliminating waste, from food to single-use packaging.

Category winner The City of Milan Food Waste Hubs project ‘hugely impressed’ Prince William, who commended its ‘dedication, ingenuity, and commitment’ in a video released earlier this month on Italy’s national day against food waste.

The Food Waste Hubs project, which made Milan the first major city to enforce a city-wide food waste policy, encompasses public agencies, food banks, charities, NGOs, universities and private businesses. It was launched in 2019, and its goal is to halve food waste by 2030. Every year, the project recovers around 130 tons of food (more than 770 pounds a day) which is the equivalent of an estimated 260,000 meals.

The food, which is mainly collected from supermarkets and company canteens, is given to NGOs operating out of three hubs in the city which distribute it among the citizens who most need it, tackling food waste and insecurity at the same time.

Humanity’s progress towards a waste-free world

According to Earthshot’s website, food waste is a particularly pressing issue as the global food system ‘generates between 25-30 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions’. But it says not only is Milan’s blueprint working throughout the city, but it ‘can be scaled throughout the world’.

“If more follow Milan’s lead, cities may become one of our greatest assets in humanity’s progress toward a waste-free world,’ it adds.

And the organization plans to expand its capabilities and further inspire people internationally. Earlier this month, the City of Milan Food Waste Hubs revealed how it would use the money to accelerate its progress via a press release. According to the statement, it is planning to ‘strengthen and expand its actions against food waste in the city, in particular with neighborhood hubs and new and innovative initiatives’.

As well as strengthening its existing food hubs and creating new ones, it plans to work with other organizations in developing innovative new ways to recover and redistribute surplus food before it becomes waste.

An international example

The release cited Anna Scavuzzo, deputy mayor for the municipality of Milan, who said: “The pride we felt last October, when we received this prestigious award on behalf of the whole city, today translates into the full Milanese spirit of outlining concrete action to further our goal.

“Allocating [the money] to investments in various areas to increase the effectiveness of policies against food waste is a challenge for us that we do not face alone: ​​the path we have undertaken by now for years and which has made us emerge internationally as an example, has been possible thanks to the whole city.

“[This includes] the partners who have supported and supported us along this path, the citizens who have put into practice small but important actions to improve the use of food in a careful and conscious way, and the volunteers who work in the Hubs every day. The commitment of each and every one has brought us this far and I am sure it will still make us go a long way.”

‘Nothing is impossible’

Her optimism when it comes to what the investment can achieve appears to be shared by Prince William, who has revealed he believes ‘nothing is impossible’ when it comes to battling climate breakdown.

During a pre-recorded speech screened at the first ever Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony last year, he also outlined why working towards a more sustainable future over the next few years is so crucial.

Image courtesy Barthelemy de Mazenod on Unsplash

“We are alive in the most consequential time in human history,” he said. “The actions we choose or choose not to take in the next 10 years will determine the fate of the planet for the next thousand.

“A decade doesn’t seem long, but humankind has an outstanding record of being able to solve the unsolvable. Many of the answers are already out there… but we need everyone – from all parts of society – to raise their ambition and unite in repairing our planet.

“The future is ours to determine. And if we set our minds to it, nothing is impossible.”


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